Click here to watch Sen. Barrasso’s remarks.
WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) spoke on the Senate floor about the 100th anniversary of Congress passing the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. He also honored some of Wyoming’s trailblazing women who led the charge for women’s equality.
Excerpts of Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“I come to the floor today as part of our national celebration of the 100th anniversary of U.S. women’s suffrage.
“A hundred years ago today, on June 4, 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote.
“This hard-fought legislative victory would ensure women’s full participation in our democracy.
“On August 18, 1920, women’s suffrage became United States law.
“Now some of the people watching may not know that Wyoming was actually more than 50 years ahead of the nation when it came to women voting.
“That’s a fact.
“This year people back home in Wyoming are celebrating both the 100th anniversary of the United States women’s right to vote and the 150th anniversary of Wyoming women’s right to vote.
“Wyoming truly is the nation’s trailblazer when it comes to women’s equality.
“Many people think of Wyoming as the ‘Cowboy State,’ and that name honors our state’s great western heritage, but Wyoming is also known as the ‘Equality State’ – the first state in the nation to grant women the right to vote.
“Long before statehood actually, because on December 10, 1869, the Wyoming Territory passed the first law in the United States granting women the right to vote and to hold public office.
“The law meant full civil and judicial equality with men.
“The following year, on September 6, 1870, Louisa Ann Swain, of Laramie, Wyoming,
became the first woman in United States in the history of the entire country, to vote in a general election.
“And 20 years later, Wyoming reaffirmed its commitment to women’s rights as it sought statehood.
“Wyoming categorically refused to enter the Union without the right for women to vote.
“When standing on principle became a major sticking point, Wyoming stuck to its guns on women’s equality.
“In fact, retaining women’s right to vote was so essential that Charles Burritt, of Johnson County, a delegate to the Wyoming Constitutional Convention, famously declared: ‘If we cannot come into the union of states with a platform of right, why then we will stay out and willingly remain in a territorial form of government until all of us have passed away to the grave.’
“In Congress, Joseph Carey was here as Wyoming’s delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. He presented the case for statehood in the House of Representatives.
“He emphasized the strong values of the people of Wyoming, values that included political parity between men and women.
“Members of Congress opposed to women’s suffrage, meanwhile, argued strongly against Wyoming becoming a state.
“One representative opposed to statehood even remarked: ‘Mr. Speaker, I do not hesitate to say that in my judgment the franchise has been too liberally extended.’
“Wyoming of course won the debate, narrowly.
“On March 26, 1890, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the Wyoming statehood bill by a vote of 139 to 127.
“The measure passed the Senate a few months later.
“Then on July 10, 1890, that’s the day we became a state, President Benjamin Harrison signed Wyoming statehood into law, naming the 44th state the ‘Equality State.’
“And let me just say that my state may be 44th to enter the Union, but Wyoming will always be the first when it comes to women’s rights.
“Wyoming has declared 2019 as the ‘Year of Wyoming Women,’ and on December 10 of this year, Wyoming will celebrate ‘Wyoming Women’s Suffrage Day.’
Nellie Tayloe Ross
“It’s a time to pay tribute to Wyoming’s many women trailblazers – strong leaders like Nellie Tayloe Ross, who was Wyoming’s 14th governor and the first elected woman governor in the United States.
“Governor Nellie Tayloe Ross completed the term of her late husband Governor William Ross, who died suddenly in office.
“And then she showed great courage and resolve by then running for election. And she did this against the advice of close family and friends.
“On January 5, 1925, Nellie Ross became the first U.S. woman to be sworn in as governor, serving with distinction until 1927.
“But she didn’t stop there.
“Nellie Tayloe Ross went on to become the first female director of the United States Mint, serving five terms here in Washington from 1933 to 1953. She died in 1977 at the age of 101.
“I want to recognize another Wyoming trailblazer, educator Estelle Reel.
“In 1894 Estelle Reel was the first woman elected to Wyoming statewide office, as our superintendent of public instruction.
“Only a year later, in 1895, she became the first woman confirmed by the United States Senate to a federal position, the national superintendent of Indian schools.
“There are a few more Wyoming women firsts that I’d like to mention.
Esther Hobart Morris
“On March 7, 1870, Esther Hobart Morris was the first U.S. woman to serve on a jury. And that jury was in Laramie, Wyoming.
“She also was the nation’s first female justice of the peace, appointed on February 17, 1870.
Mary Atkinson, Petticoat Government
“And in 1870 Wyoming’s Mary Atkinson became our country’s first female court bailiff.
“Wyoming was also home to the first all-woman city government, elected in 1920 in Jackson, Wyoming.
“The Jackson press dubbed them ‘the petticoat government.’
“Clearly, the people of Wyoming and all Americans owe an incredible debt of gratitude to the nation’s extraordinary women leaders, past and present.
“So this year we celebrate those first laws that gave women the right to vote and ensured their full participation in our democracy.”